Skip to main content

Full text of "Linguistic Survey Of India Vol Ii Mon Khmer Siamese Chinese Families"

See other formats

The languages of this family are nearly all spoken in Further India, and thus do not
fall within thejttmits of the present Survey. The home of one important member, Khassi,
is, however, in Assam, and hence a brief general description of the family is necessary,
Linguistic evidence points to the conclusion that some form of Mon-Khrner speech
was once the language of the whole of Further India.1 Incursions, from the north, of
tribes speaking Tibeto-Burman languages, and in later times, from Western China, of
members of the Tai race, have driven most of the Mon-Khmer speakers to the sea-coast;
so that, with a few exceptions, all the languages of this family are now found in Pegu,
Cambodia and Anam, The exceptions are some tribes who still hold the hill country of
the lower and middle Me-kong and of the middle Chindwin, and the Khassis, all of whom
are islands of Mon- Khmer origin, standing out amidst seas of alien peoples.
The languages of the Mon-Khmer family fall naturally into five groups, The first
group includes a number of closely related forms of speech used by the inhabitants of
the hill country of the lower and middle Me-kong. The second includes the Mon or
Talaing spoken in Pegu, the Anamese of Anam, and a number of minor dialects (inclu-
ding Stieng and Bahnar) spoken in the latter country. The third group consists of the
various dialects of the Khmer spoken in Cambodia. The fourth, or Palaung-Wa, group,
includes the Palaung spoken north-east of Mandalay, the language of the Was, and a
number of other dialects spoken in the hilly country round the upper middle courses of
the Chindwin and the Me-kong. Amongst them may be mentioned Kha-muk or Khmu,
Le-met, and Eiang. The fifth group consists of the various dialects of the Khassi lan-
guage. In order to show the connexion between Khassi and the other languages of the
family, I have added to the list of words of the Khassi dialects a further list showing the
corresponding Mon-Khmer words so far as I have been able to collect them.
The points of resemblance between the Mon-Khmer vocabularies and those, on the one
hand, of the Munda languages of Central India, and, on the other hand, of the Nancowry
language of the Nicobars and the dialects of the early inhabitants of Malacca,2 have often
been pointed out, They are so remarkable and of such frequent occurrence, that a con-
nexion between all these tongues cannot be doubted, and must be considered as finally
established by the "labours of Professor Kuhn, At the same time the structures of the
two sets of languages differ in important particulars. The Mon-Khmer languages are
monosyllabic. Every word consists of a single syllable, When, in Khassi for instance,
we meet an apparent dissyllable we find on examination that it is really a compound
word. On the other hand, the Munda, Nancowry, and Malacca languages contain many
undoubted polysyllables. Ihis is a very important point of difference, for one of the
marks by which languages are classified is the fact that they #re monosyllabic or poly-
syllabic. Again, if we take the order of words in the Munda languages and compare it
with that of Khassi and Mon, we find another important distinction. The Munda order
is subject, object, verb, while in Khassi and Mon it is subject, verb, object. The order of
1 It is not intended to suggest that its speaketiwerathe autochthones of this region,   They probably immigrated from
North-Western China, and dispossessed the aborigines, as they, m tuin, were dispossessed by the Tibeto-Burmm and the Tais.
8 These a?e the language of the lo-called Oiaug Uta*, or Men of the Woods, Sakei, Setting, Omg Bcnua, and otUrs.